Cooking For Others: Pasta For Pop
EVENT: Mom’s MIA, Time to Eat Carbs
VENUE: Phoebe’s Parents’ House, Martha’s Vineyard
PARTY SIZE: 2
TYPE: Father-Daughter Bonding
MENU: Linguine with Littlenecks, Tomatoes, and Corn; Mixed Greens with Lemon Vinaigrette
It occurred to me, strange as it may seem, that I rarely mention my dad on this blog. Granted, we haven’t spent much time in the kitchen together, and save for a few perfect roast chickens—a phase brought on by acquiring the Barefoot Contessa cookbooks (if Ina Garten’s husband Jeffrey could make it, so could he)—most of the cooking of my childhood came from my mother in the form of varied vegetable concoctions and garlic soup. My main memories of dad’s domestic prowess are of bagels with the perfect amount of cream cheese slathered on top (meaning about half the tub), and my morning toast, which would arrive on the plate cut into puzzle pieces—triangles, stars, and occasionally, when he was feeling super creative with a butter knife, the letters of my name.
These days Dad’s presence by the stove still mainly revolves around breakfast. Last year I bought him a smoothie maker for Hanukkah, and since then the fridge has been filled not only with crusted-over mugs of my mother’s green soup, but also half-finished glasses of dad’s pureed blueberries with Greek yogurt. I have yet to try any of his creations, mainly because most involve fruit, my arch-enemy, but I’m told that two bites of his Monday morning oatmeal is enough to rewire your intestines for the rest of the week.
But while the majority of my cooking life has been spent either with my mother, with Cara, or alone in the kitchen with both of their guidance ringing in my ears, the bulk of my eating moments have been with my father. It is to him that I owe my sweet tooth—I cannot drive by a Friendly’s on the highway without craving a black-and-white fribble, pass by the bakery on my block without wanting a piece of coconut cake, or pass up a malted milk ball in the candy bins at a movie theater. Since, of course, neither can he. More to the point, he is infamous for ordering the molten lava cake off the dessert tray, taking one microscopic bite, then pushing the plate towards me.
Today, we both try to be better. My metabolism has slowed enough to put me in mom’s camp of health food, and dad’s cholesterol has risen enough to replace vanilla ice cream with skinny cow fudge bars, and everyday bagels with oatmeal. His morals have changed too, and nine months ago he decided to jump on Cara’s bandwagon and become a full-fledged pescatarian. But regardless, one vice still remains strong: carbs.
My mom has a gluten allergy, but even if she didn’t, she’d probably pass up pasta, and scoff at it for being pedestrian processed white food for the overweight masses, of which, she claims my father’s potbelly qualifies him for membership. Even so, she’ll make a serving or two of pasta, rice, or potatoes with a little adornment—butter, herbs, or garlic—to appease my father’s appetite and prevent either one of us from giving in to our other vice: takeout.
So when mom is away, carbs get to take center stage. Such was the case last weekend, and we celebrated with a subtle rebellion: one simple pasta dish with fresh clams, corn, and tomatoes—all the summer’s bounty spun around a beautiful white strand of linguine. In the grand scheme of creamy, cheesy Italian favorites, this dish was probably the best excuse for bad behavior. But, then again, that leaves plenty more naughtiness for dessert.
From my kitchen, where pop’s pasta intake is not policed, to yours,
Phoebe, THE QUARTER-LIFE COOK
Makes 2 servings
½ lb linguine
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 small Vidalia onion or 2 shallots, finely chopped
1 ½ dozen littleneck clams (cherrystones work well too), scrubbed
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 cup dry white wine
½ cup clam juice (optional)
1 plum tomato, seeded and finely chopped
2 ears corn, shucked and kernels removed
1 tbsp chopped basil
1 tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsley (plus a little extra for garnish)
Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Before adding the pasta, add a glug of olive oil to the water. Cook the pasta according to package directions until al dente.
In the meantime, sauté the garlic in 1 tablespoon olive oil until golden brown in a large Dutch oven or saucepan with a lid. Add the onions and sauté until translucent. Add the red pepper flakes, wine, clam juice (if using), and tomatoes to the pan. When the liquids are bubbling, add the clams. Simmer the mixture for 3 minutes, then cover the pan until the clams have begun to open, about 4-5 minutes.
When the first few have opened completely, add the corn and the herbs. Simmer uncovered until all the clams have opened, and discard any that fail to do so. Taste the sauce for seasoning, and add any salt as necessary.
Add the pasta to the clam mixture and toss to combine. Serve immediately and garish with a sprinkle of herbs, and some crusty bread on the side.